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Is Donald Trump starting to make an electoral comeback?

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Posted: Sep 21, 2020 9:51 PM
Updated: Sep 21, 2020 9:51 PM

With 53 days left before voters decide his political fate, there were stirrings Thursday that suggest the political freefall President Donald Trump has been in for months has not only ended, but that the Electoral College landscape may be starting to move back in his direction, ever so slightly.

The big news came out of the Cook Political Report, one of the preeminent political handicapping services in the country, which moved two states -- Florida and Nevada -- in the President's direction. Florida moved from "lean Democrat" to "Toss Up," while Nevada went from "Likely Democrat" to "Lean Democrat."

"Biden's Electoral College lead has narrowed to 279 to 187 for Trump," wrote Cook's Amy Walter of the moves. "Earlier this summer, Biden held a 308 to 187 lead."

Also on Thursday, The Economist updated its electoral model, writing this:

"In early June The Economist published its own statistical forecasting model for this November's presidential contest to guide such handicapping. Back then, it gave Donald Trump at best a one-in-five chance of winning a second term. But by July, as unrest and the coronavirus ravaged the nation, his odds had slumped to as low as one-in-ten. There they stayed until the middle of August. Now, our model shows Mr Trump has clawed back a sizeable chunk of support."

All of which leads us to the question: Are we seeing the stirring of an actual Trump comeback? Or is the movement effectively a dead-cat bounce rather than a sign of an actual increased chance for Trump to beat former Vice President Joe Biden on November 3?

That question is difficult to answer with any sort of certainty for a few reasons -- most notably that we are still 53 days from the election. And we are still in the grips of a pandemic that is projected to kill more than 400,000 Americans by the end of the year. And in the middle of a national conversation about race that has sparked protests -- peaceful and violent -- across the country. And with the least predictable or traditional person in the White House in modern American history.

In short: The last two-ish months before an election are always chaotic and somewhat unpredictable. That goes quadruple for this election.

But simply because we can't say anything definitive doesn't mean there's nothing to see here. And what these latest stirrings in the electoral map look like are a sort of return to normalcy in the electorate as opposed to any major movement in Trump's favor.

Think of if this way: The electorate is like a rubber band. The dual summer crises of the death of George Floyd and the mounting death toll in the United States from coronavirus stretched that rubber band heavily in Biden's direction as voters rapidly lost confidence in the President's ability to effectively deal with the pandemic and/or direct a serious national dialogue about race and policing. All that's happened in the last month or so is that the rubber band has returned slightly closer to its normal level of tension. It hasn't begun to be stretched in Trump's direction and, in fact, it still is more in Biden's favor, although slightly less so than, say, two months ago.

Consider that while Cook's ratings changes narrow Biden's Electoral College lead, even with Florida (and its 29 electoral votes) back in "Toss Up," Biden has 279 electoral votes in their projections. Which is nine more than he needs to be elected in November. And that while The Economist's model now gives Trump a better chance of winning than it did this summer, G. Elliott Morris, a data journalist who wrote the piece about the latest projections, noted this on Twitter:

"Context is key tho. We give Trump less than half the chance we would have at this point in 16 if we ran the same model. The last 2 weeks (post-convention) are typically the incumbent's best of the cycle—yet polls moved modestly, if at all, and POTUS's odds are only 3 pts better."

And there's this: Biden's lead in national polling has remained steady for months. At the moment, the CNN poll of polls pegs Biden at 51% and Trump at 43%.

Given the deep polarization in the country -- Trump is, according to Gallup, the most polarizing president in American history -- some regression to the mean, electorally speaking, seems somewhat inevitable as Election Day draws closer. We are not a country at the moment in which a presidential candidate of either party is likely to score a massive victory.

That's not to say that Trump can't win. He absolutely can. But it is to say that he, despite some recent movement in places like Florida and Nevada (and even Pennsylvania) in his favor, remains a clear underdog to beat Biden to 270 electoral votes. Still.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 259117

Reported Deaths: 5668
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17436187
Hinds16524328
Harrison13876199
Rankin11000217
Jackson10652187
Lee8981141
Madison8413168
Jones6552112
Forrest6101121
Lauderdale6034189
Lowndes5463119
Lafayette507393
Lamar496465
Washington4877124
Bolivar4068109
Oktibbeha401681
Panola378380
Pontotoc372155
Monroe3628105
Warren3619101
Union350563
Marshall349569
Neshoba3433152
Pearl River3380104
Leflore3079108
Lincoln300687
Sunflower289272
Hancock285360
Tate276762
Alcorn268854
Pike266580
Itawamba266261
Scott253448
Yazoo250156
Prentiss249552
Tippah245850
Copiah244549
Coahoma243654
Simpson240069
Leake234367
Grenada221171
Marion218473
Covington216972
Adams210170
Wayne206432
Winston205267
George202739
Attala195761
Newton195745
Tishomingo192461
Chickasaw186144
Jasper176038
Holmes169868
Clay162735
Tallahatchie154935
Stone148424
Clarke143562
Calhoun138021
Smith125825
Yalobusha120234
Walthall113437
Greene112129
Noxubee111425
Montgomery110936
Carroll105922
Lawrence104317
Perry103231
Amite99926
Webster94324
Tunica87621
Jefferson Davis87327
Claiborne86825
Benton84023
Humphreys83624
Kemper79120
Quitman7029
Franklin68716
Choctaw62313
Wilkinson58825
Jefferson55920
Sharkey44217
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 432536

Reported Deaths: 6379
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson63523957
Mobile30967562
Madison27627201
Tuscaloosa21122268
Montgomery19495326
Shelby18941126
Baldwin16798188
Lee12901102
Morgan12447129
Etowah11911178
Calhoun11365205
Marshall10322119
Houston8813156
Limestone823176
Cullman8159106
Elmore8056104
DeKalb7796102
Lauderdale773399
St. Clair7705122
Talladega6347109
Walker5993174
Jackson590341
Colbert543274
Blount541186
Autauga527061
Coffee454160
Dale405482
Franklin371948
Russell345712
Chilton340972
Covington334168
Escambia328344
Dallas310196
Chambers297370
Clarke290536
Tallapoosa2665107
Pike258830
Marion250155
Lawrence249150
Winston231442
Bibb219848
Geneva206946
Marengo205229
Pickens198631
Hale180842
Barbour177836
Fayette174528
Butler171358
Cherokee162530
Henry157523
Monroe150718
Randolph143236
Washington139527
Clay128546
Crenshaw121644
Cleburne119724
Lamar119621
Macon119637
Lowndes112536
Wilcox105822
Bullock101428
Perry99118
Conecuh96320
Sumter89726
Greene76723
Coosa62215
Choctaw51624
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